SFHS junior debuts acting chops in South Baldwin Theatre’s “Steel Magnolias”

Production of beloved Southern drama captures spirit of friends, family and bleeding armadillo cake


After years working primarily in children’s stage productions, Erin Pempel’s high school drama teacher urged her to make the jump to community theatre.

When Pempel auditioned for South Baldwin Community Theatre’s production of “Steel Magnolias” she didn’t merely jump, she leaped head on into a leading role in one of the south’s most iconic productions.

“It’s very fun, I absolutely love it,” said Pempel a Spanish Fort High School junior. “This is one of the bigger roles that I’ve played but I take the challenge head on.”

After earning the parts of “Annie’s” Miss Hannigan, “Cinderella’s” queen and nurse in “Romeo & Juliet,” on other local stages, Pempel’s theater teacher, Jessica Jackson, urged her to audition in Gulf Shores.

The pair rejoiced when Pempel brought home the role of Annelle.

Now, the teen is travels nearly every day from the top of the county to the Gulf to rehearse with her first all-adult cast.

“It is a nice change and a different atmosphere,” Pempel said. “I love my cast mates. Everyone is so nice and I feel very welcome. I’m definitely the youngest one there but they never treat me like I am.”

Not to mention, the teen is doing some heavy lifting as the show’s Annelle.

The role is considered by many to carry the largest character development throughout the tale of love and loss as told through the experiences of a group of close-knit female friends.

“Whatever Annelle thinks something she thinks it very strongly,” Pempel said. “It’s a very big character development as she changes throughout the show.”

Pempel said she enjoys performing on stage because “It gives me a voice. I am able to put myself out there, and this feels kind of like a family.”

The stage is also where she said she hopes to head professionally, not as an actress, but rather as a high school theater teacher, like Jackson who cheered her on.

“She’s like a second mom to all of us weird theater kids and I don’t know how she puts up with it,” she said. “She’s just a wonderful role model.”